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We all work in order to sustain our lifestyle and make money. Companies can deem you worth a certain amount, but with time, effort, and merit you may find you expect more. Sometimes, they’ll offer you a raise, but many times you’ll have to ask for it.
There are a lot of variables that contribute to how or why you make the amount of money you do or want to make more. Knowing your role and your worth are the first steps in ensuring you’re being paid fairly, but there are many ways to look at the situation.
Know when your performance review is scheduled.
Performance reviews can happen anywhere from quarterly to yearly. Often times these reviews will be accompanied by an average 2% pay increase. Though employers predominantly see it as an opportunity to assess your strengths and weaknesses, employees can use it to ask for a raise.
There are many things you can do to help equip yourself for this conversation. It’s important to be prepared, but also to be open-minded. Take a look at some preparatory tips to get you started.
Do your research.
This is among the most important tips you’ll find when entering the conversation. Many variables contribute to what you should be making, from the cost of living in your city to competition in the industry. Try this free salary estimator to see how you should be stacking up.
Know your worth.
Discussing your successful history and contributions within the company is what can set you apart from your peers. Have you been a long-standing loyal employee? Have you taken on any duties or projects outside of your written job description?
These, among others, are some factors that will nudge your employer to bump your income.
Understand their budget.
It can be hard, but it’s a necessary truth to recognize: you’re not the only one who wants more money. Yearly reviews often accompany raises because the company has reevaluated their budget and have more to offer. Sometimes, they don’t.Being open-minded will help you to not feel defeated.
The good news is, there are other ways you can negotiate for more money other than increase on the base.
This base-level knowledge will help get you in the frame of mind for fighting for more money without having to get a second job. To make sure all your ducks are in a row, here are some ways to negotiate your way to a raise.
1. Know the difference between conflict and conversation.
For those who are averse to conflict, as so many can be, going into the conversation may seem like a stand-off. Don’t let it keep you up at night (unless you’re into that sort of thing).
Formulating your opinion of why you should be getting a raise and presenting it with details and facts can show your employer you’re serious and you’re educated.
Among the many ways the AAUW can coach you through your negotiation, there’s a script that can help you formulate this conversation:
- Speak positively of your job and how you see yourself continually succeeding in it
- Highlight your accomplishments
- Suggest options for increasing your responsibility on the job
- End with asking how your salary matches the job expectations
This conversation can last only a few minutes and can have a significant impact on your financial success for years to come. If it sounds intimidating to you, you’re not alone. According to Payscale, only 36% of millennials have ever asked for a raise.
It can be a tense or uncomfortable moment for you both parties, but being mentally prepared for it will ensure you keep your nerve.
If you’ve recently completed a big project or you’ve gone above and beyond in your role, it’s a good time to ask for a raise. It will give you the confidence you need to approach the situation backed by relevant evidence for your request.
2. Don’t soften your request.
Once you’ve got the confidence, don’t lose your nerve. Make each sentence well thought out and speak directly. Present the information that makes you eligible for a raise and be specific with your expectation.
It’s better to phrase your case like this: After my hard-earned success with my client, an increased pay of 5k is appropriate.
It’s a lot less impactful when stated flimsily, like: I think I should deserve at least 3k more.
If you don’t state what you want outright, you’re not going to get it. They may see your lower request as a good opportunity to give you the bare minimum and bide their time until the conversation comes up again. Be direct. It can save time and earn money.
In addition to being direct in your request, stand your ground. Don’t fear the silence. These silences could be a signal that your boss is considering your request, and shouldn’t be seen as a negative response. After all, it’s much more exciting on your end of this deal than theirs.
Don’t expect enthusiasm and come with a similar demeanor. It will help you stay in the matter of fact frame of mind and get you closer to what you want in the end.
3. Don’t give up your salary history (unless absolutely necessary).
The AAUW salary negotiation program has a bit of advice: don’t give up your salary history. Providing this number outright to your employer can give them a sense that you’ll be content with that number. If they had a much higher number in mind, they may be inclined to drop it.
Alternatively, the employer may use this as a gauge of your worth. If people in your role are already making much more, in some instances it can be seen as a level of the hierarchy and indicate that the role isn’t in line with your skillset.
Keep in mind, for some states it is illegal for your employer to ask for salary history. For the cities and the states that it is legal for them to ask, Monster suggests having an arsenal of answers as to why you don’t want to give that information up.
A rebuttal like “Can you tell me the pay range for this position?” can level the playing field a bit. You can see if it falls within the range of your expectation, or help you realize that you can ask for more.
If they persist on hearing a number, provide the number you want. This will get you to a more realistic chance at reaching this goal.
Employers are less likely to give less than what you expect, whether it’s your previous salary or just expectation for a new role, without making up for it in other ways.
If the salary is requested via an online portal or on a written letter, put an X or dash through the block so they know you’ve seen it. It’s ideal to have the conversation when you can get in dialogue so that there will be less of a drawn out back and forth process.
Ultimately, it is within your employer’s power to verify past salary. Stick to your guns but if it comes down to it, tell the truth. There is still an opportunity to negotiate after this point.
4. Don’t overshoot.
Claiming to expect or have made a number that’s far higher than industry standard can lose your credibility… and your hard-hoped-for money.
This can also change when you change cities. Jobs will often give new compensation packages to employees who are being relocated to match the change in living. The job that earned you $60,000 in New York City may be two-thirds of that down south, but some cities can be surprisingly more expensive than where you work now.
If you’re staying put, it’s good to know what others in similar roles are making in your city. There are several places online that you can check the salary standard in your industry.
Salary.com is considered the leader of the pack, but there are others that have a keener eye for various industries. This guide will help to guide you to the right place for the best numbers.
You don’t want to lowball yourself, but your boss is as much of an industry expert as you are. Go in knowing what the job is worth and how you provide that service.
5. Write a pay raise request.
It’s certainly better to be able to schedule a 1:1 meeting to have this discussion, but sometimes it’s better to give them a heads up of what’s to come. There are a few ways you can word the request so they know your intent.
If 1:1 meetings are common practice, ask to have some time set aside to discuss salary prior to your meeting.
If there aren’t regularly scheduled 1:1 meetings, request a short meeting to talk about compensation.
This can be done via email and should be short and sweet. Don’t lay your cards out on the table yet; you want to get the chance to sit face to face.
In some cases, companies are more inclined to use chatrooms to communicate with employees. In these cases, you can send a short note via chat, requesting to have a meeting or time set aside to discuss.
Only after you have the face-to-face meeting should you send a letter detailing your case. The right way to structure this email includes all the specifics: who you’re requesting it from, how much you want, and why you deserve it.
Some other important elements to this letter include:
- addressed to your manager
- subject line that explicitly says this is a raise request
- the number you asked for in your face to face meeting as a reiteration
- your accomplishments, and how they add to your value since your salary was set
- conclude, repeat the request, and sign off.
6. Educate yourself.
Being willing and able to continue learning relative skills for your field is a surefire way to boost your worth.
Though slightly outdated, the Muse put together a list of courses that you can take to sharpen your tool kit and build your worth. They’ve organized it into several categories, including communication, entrepreneurship, graphic design, and language.
If you aren’t sure courses can help swing your argument for a raise, consider this: demand for bilingual employees has doubled since 2010, and the multilingual workforce is growing across industries.
It’s a skill that can be highlight sought after for engineers, managers, and editors alike. Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic are at the forefront of demand for various types of jobs.
While some states, like California, have a higher demand for bi- or multi-lingual jobs, the progression of the global economy hints that this demand will only increase.
Language isn’t the only way you can boost your job worth. If your career is design or engineering, it’s important to keep on top of the lastest in software and technology so you can stay at the cutting edge. There are many opportunities for you to add to your toolkit through learning to code or getting design tips that have been silently sitting in your software.
Aside from technicalities, courses on management, sales, or coaching can be helpful in boosting your knowledge-base and work performance. There are many leadership courses that you can take online, many of which will merit you a certificate.
These certificates are great accolades to have while asking for a raise, but it’s important to implement and display what these courses taught you on the job. Timed well, they are a great resource to cite during your performance review.
7. Know where you stand (especially if you’re a woman).
It’s time to level up. The hard truth of negotiating salary is that it’s gender-biased. The fear of a salary-negotiation going badly is magnified for women. Studies prove that, overall, women feel the sting of repercussions for this conversation far more than men.
Interestingly enough, some of the gender gap is also a result of the fact that women ask for a raise far less than men, leading them to never get a comparable salary.
In this study from the Harvard Business Review, only 7% of women negotiated starting salary after graduating from Carnegie Mellon as opposed to 58% of men who did.
Thew New York Times drew similar conclusions. Citing the research of Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, author Dr. Linda Babcock says, “The style that a woman uses to negotiate can backfire and can create backlash.”
If your request seems too needy or aggressive, you’re more likely to be denied. The aim of the salary increase should, in theory, be beneficial to both parties involved. Go in thinking collaboratively and read body language during the interview. It will tell you how it’s being received and you can adjust your tone accordingly.
Women have to plan accordingly. Be sure to be prepared with ways in which a raise is a reflection of a projected increase in productivity for the team. “Using a cooperative style can get you what you want and help you avoid the backlash,” says Dr. Babcock.
8. Plan (way) ahead.
Ideally, you’ve started a new job and have negotiated your salary to the appropriate pay. Good start, but that’s not the last of this conversation.
Danielle Harlan, Ph. D., founder and CEO of The Center of Advancing Leadership and Human Potential, says that laying the groundwork in advance for your next raise will make the process smoother and more successful when the conversation happens.
How do you do this seamlessly? About 6 months into your employment, ask what you can do to improve in your role and position yourself for the next one. That will equip you with guidelines of what they expect, and give you things to focus on to get yourself in position.
If all goes well, after a year you can revisit these accomplishments and use them as part of your arsenal for asking for more money.
9. Practice, practice, practice.
Even with all the preparation in the world, you don’t know how your employer is going to react to the request for a raise. If you practice the conversation with different friends, you’ll get a chance to see different mentalities and be better prepared for control over the conversation.
“This sounds strange and unnatural to a lot of people, but conversations in which you are asking for something almost always go better if you’ve rehearsed in advance and have considered the many possible responses that you’ll get to each of your requests, and how you’ll address these responses,” Dr. Harlan says.
Dont settle for asking one friend — the more the better. As many friends as you can get to practice with will help to give you a feel at the range of reactions. Role-playing various character traits will help you create mental notes on how you are going to respond to the situation.
“After role-playing the part of a resistant boss, having the actual conversation with her will be infinitely easier—and you’ll have more confidence since you will be able to anticipate their responses and know how to address them,” Harlan says.
10. Grow from defeat.
As the Beatles say, you can’t always get what you want. One of the first things to remember to do is to keep your cool. It can be frustrating, but it shouldn’t become career-crushing.
In fact, there are several ways in which you can get some type or remuneration for your efforts. Additional benefits that include increased vacation days, work from home options, or even a title change can all be ways to negotiate how you can feel more valued in your role.
If “no” is still resounding, find out why. Ask for clearly defined expectations for improved success in your role and schedule a time to review and revisit the conversation. At that time, you may have a stronger, more concrete argument for your raise.
If a no truly sounds to be unfairly given, it could be time to start looking for a new job. It’s important not to be too rash or emotional, harming your relationship with your employer or being blatant about your job search.
Take the time to seek out your next role and be willing to negotiate starting salary then.
Looking for a new job, or even just exploring a new opportunity, can give you the chance to show your employers of your worth on the market. Be careful with this tactic, though. When presenting a competitive job offer elsewhere, make sure you clearly communicate that:
- Keep your tone collaborative
- Build the case for your value
- Reinforce your happiness at the present company
Whatever you do, you don’t want to appear to unhappy in your role or with the decision. Handle it gracefully by being prepared to hear no, but hoping for the best.
Going into the conversation can be hard, but asking for a raise in your salary can be one of the best decisions you make. Some career coaches believe having the conversation can earn an average employee $1 million more over a lifetime.
The conversation is worth having when the time is right. Everyone’s situation is different and what’s best in your situation is as unique as your role.
If you’re not sure if you’re ready to have the conversation, ask yourself a few questions:
- Have there been changes to my responsibilities from when I was first hired?
- Have I been a loyal and devoted employee for a length of time without seeing any increase?
- Are there any duties or projects I have taken on outside of my job description?
If any of those questions are answered with yes by you, it’s a good time to set a meeting or plan for your quarterly review. Be confident in your decision and remember, they’re expecting it – it’s strictly business.